The Gospel of Mark begins with one of the most subversive, controversial, influential, and important sentences written: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (Mark 1:1)
It is difficult for us as 21st century Gentiles to fully grasp just how dangerous and revolutionary it would be to write these words. It's only when we consider the context of the culture that this was written that we can fully appreciate how subversive this sentence truly is.
Life for the 1st century Christian was full of government overreach, persecution, and financial uncertainty. It was a time when the world needed hope—hope from a leader other than Caesar. Hope from a servant-leader who was not of this world. Hope from someone who had every right to be Ruler, but who chose to be a servant.
He came. He led. He served. And He saved. His name is Jesus.
Earthly kings expect to be waited on hand and foot. Overlords take all that they can for themselves. But Jesus is different. This King of kings didn’t come to be served, but to serve. This Lord of lords didn’t come to take, but to give.
Service and sacrifice—that is what we see of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus gives His life in service (chapters 1-10) and in sacrifice (chapters 11-16). Why? Because the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.
God has a radical adventure before you—full of heartache and pain; difficulty and wonder; glory and fellowship—with Him as you desire to be His servant. So as we study the Gospel of Mark, we pray that He would transform us with His word and by the Spirit so that we may see every second of our lives as a ministry opportunity. But most importantly—that we would see opportunities to fellowship with Him in service and sacrifice.
We thought You'd come with a crown of gold
A string of pearls and a cashmere robe
We thought You'd clinch an iron fist
And rain like fire on the politics.
But without a sword, no armored guard
But common born in mother's arms
The government now rests upon
The shoulders of this Baby Son.
–“Baby Son” by John Mark McMillan
The whole Gospel of Mark revolves around a singular verse: "For even the Son of Man did not come to serve, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45). This Gospel shows us how Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to lay down His life to set people free.
As we study this book and look closely and carefully at Jesus, we will hopefully become more like Him. Not that we would die on a cross for anyone's sin, but that we would be willing to lay down our preferences and our pride so that others can be set free.
This past Sunday, we wondered how we will be changed as we begin our study of the Gospel of Mark. Watch or listen to our study as we asked the Lord to transform us through His word.
In the book of Acts, John (also called Mark) joined Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. As time went on, things got difficult and Mark left Barnabas and Paul for home. For their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to bring Mark, but Paul objected. Mark went with Barnabas, but Paul and Barnabas never served together again.
It probably took a while for Mark to get over his failure. He needed more than encouragement—he needed to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus—and God had just the man in mind.
Peter was familiar with failure—specifically the failure of running away in the face of fear. He was reminded of it every time the rooster crowed. Peter needed to know how to receive the grace of Jesus, how to live out the grace of Jesus, and how to be strengthened by the grace of Jesus.
The grace of Jesus changed Peter. So much so that Peter was able to share it with Mark, who was struggling with his own failure. He told Mark all about the grace of Jesus and showed Mark what it looks like to live in light of this amazing grace.
It’s a blessing to have to know people like Barnabas and Peter—fellow believers who encourage and teach you not only what it means to be strengthened by God’s amazing grace, but how to deny yourself, pick up your cross, and serve Jesus because of that grace.
Thankfully, through the ministry of Barnabas and Peter, Mark learned this. He learned how the grace of Jesus not only sustains us, but also gives us the ability to serve others—even and especially when we don’t feel like it. It prompted him to pick up his pen and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, write a book about the amazing grace of Jesus—a book we call the Gospel according to Mark.
The Gospel according to Mark was written in a time of incredible political and societal upheaval. A time when people were concerned about their children’s future. A time when quitting and running away was a tempting prospect.
Mark wrote this book for a specific purpose. He didn’t just want people to know about Jesus—he wanted them to know the grace of Jesus. How the grace of Jesus is sufficient to sustain anyone though any difficulty. How this amazing grace floods a heart with the love of God and renders fear powerless. How this grace is only given to failures and sinners.
Mark knew about this grace so well because he had failed. He had endured struggle after struggle that made him cherish the grace of Jesus more and more. But how did Mark come to know of this grace and who strengthened him with the grace of Jesus that inspired Mark to write a book about it?
Watch a replay or listen to our study as we considered this man Mark and the influence that the grace of Jesus had on his life.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The Bible says it this way: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
There’s another verse in the Bible that talks about love. Jesus said it’s the distinctive feature of those who follow Him—“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35). It’s not by having impressive Bible knowledge, or big budgets, or bigger building. It’s love. People will know we follow Jesus by our love. When people start to realize that we are truly following Jesus, they are drawn to a real relationship with Jesus as well.
Love is the key to God’s vision for His church. Simply loving the Lord with all that we have and all that we are. And loving our neighbor as ourselves. If our neighbor is a follower of Jesus, then we love them by helping them to follow Jesus. If our neighbor doesn’t follow Jesus, then we love them by introducing them to Jesus.
That’s it—simplicity of heart in love for the Lord and love for each other.
Let us love our God supremely,
Let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners,
Till our God makes all things new.
On the first Sunday of every year, we review the history, vision, purpose, and practice of Refuge so that we can confidently answer these questions:
What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What does it look like?
Year after year, this study hasn’t really changed—but we sure have! As we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ, the Spirit of God transforms us from the inside out. That’s a promise God makes and fulfills through His Word.
And so we turn again to His Word to find the answers to those important questions—what are we doing? Why are we doing it? And what does it look like?
Watch or listen to our study from Sunday as we reviewed God’s vision for God’s church.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends